VANCOUVER, British Columbia – A Canadian immigration panel beganhearings Monday to decide if one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitivesis a terrorist or not before allowing him to apply for refugeestatus in Canada.
Tre Arrow is wanted for his alleged role in the 2001 firebombingof logging and cement trucks in Oregon. The FBI claims he isassociated with the Environmental Liberation Front (ELF). The grouphas claimed responsibility for dozens of acts of destruction overthe past few years.
Obtaining refugee status would prevent authorities fromextraditing Arrow to the United States.
The Immigration and Refugee Board hearings are being held behindclosed doors unless the applicant requests otherwise.
The gaunt and shackled Arrow, clad in red prison overalls, wouldnot comment on the privacy of the hearing as officers hustled himdown a hall filled with supporters.
“I love you,” he called to them as he passed. “I think it’simportant that people recognize the injustices that are beingcommitted against the people and animals of this planet,” he toldThe Associated Press.
Arrow’s lawyers have said the Canadian government is allegingArrow is a terrorist. Canadian officials will decide if he isadmissible to the country before his hearing on refugee statusproceeds.
In extradition cases, the Canadian government acts on behalf ofthe government seeking the individual who is facing charges in hishome country.
Negar Azmudeh, Arrow’s defense attorney in immigration court,said the panel must find that the ELF is not a terroristorganization or that Arrow has no links to the organization.
If the panel decides he is connected with ELF, Arrow would behanded over to U.S. authorities, said Canadian activist DavidBarbarash.
Arrow contends that he wouldn’t get a fair trial in the U.S.because of the FBI’s assertion that the crimes he is accused of areacts of terrorism.
Arrow, 30, who was born Michael Scarpitti but says the treestold him to change his name, has said he is not a terrorist. Hegained notoriety by scaling the Portland offices of the U.S. ForestService in 2000 and perching on a narrow ledge for 11 days toprotest logging on Mount Hood.
He is facing federal charges in Oregon of using fire to commit afelony, destroying vehicles used in interstate commerce and usingincendiary devices in a crime of violence.
The charges carry combined penalties of up to 80 years inprison.
Barbarash said Arrow has ended a hunger strike he had waged. Hesaid Arrow has dropped from 150 pounds to 109 pounds while incustody.
Arrows supporters say that, as a vegan, Arrow has not beenreceiving food he can eat in custody. They brought food for himMonday.
“He was looking forward to today for the food rather than thehearing,” Barbarash said. “Every now and then he gets some iceberglettuce.”
If the panel decides he is not associated with the ELF, Arrowhas 28 days to begin the process to apply for refugee status inCanada.
Hearings would then be scheduled for the claim. That could takeup to six months, Negar Azmudeh said.
If that application is refused, Arrow can apply for a reviewbefore the Federal Court of Canada.
The Canadian Department of Justice cannot discuss the issue dueto Canadian privacy laws on immigration matters.
Arrow faces shoplifting charges for allegedly stealingbolt-cutters from a home improvement store in Victoria, B.C., inMarch, which is how authorities nabbed him.